August 7, 2011

Chain Smoking Down, Casual Use Up Amongst Teens

A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report has found that heavy smoking among teenagers is on the decline, but casual use of cigarettes is on the rise among that age group, according to a Thursday article by Bernd Debusmann Jr. of Reuters.

According to Debusmann's report, casual smoking among teens rose from 67.2 % in 1991 to 79.4% in 2009. Conversely, CDC study found that heavy smoking fell from 18% all the way down to 7.8% during that same time span.

The CDC study, which has been published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, defined light smokers as those who smoked five or fewer cigarettes daily, moderate smokers as those who smoked 6-10 cigarettes daily, and heavy smokers as those who used 11 or more each day.

"We're seeing a broad national phenomenon," Dr. Terry Pechachek, co-author of the CDC report, told Reuters. "With fewer cigarettes, the price effect, smoke-free policies and a change in the broad public awareness of risk, the heaviest patterns of use are becoming very rare."

That said, Pechachek still warned that even moderate cigarette use among teenagers was too much cigarette use, in terms of safety.

"It is important to note that light and intermittent smoking still has significant health risks," he told Debusmann. "We think there may be an emerging pattern. We may be creating a new type of smoker that may be more durable, that are adapting to smoke-free environments and to changing social norms."

"It's still a very risky behavior," Pechachek added. "We want to get across to people that although this is a positive trend, it's very unacceptable to have so many children exposing themselves to something so addictive. The greatest danger is minimizing the risk."

Between 14,000 and 16,000 students participated in the study annually.

According to CBS News, the state with the highest teen smoking rate was Maine, where 17.6% of the survey responders stated that they were heavy smokers. Kentucky was second-highest with 14.2%, followed by Delaware with a heavy smoking rate of 13.7%.

"Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causing many diseases and affecting the health of smokers in general," the CDC claims in information posted to their official website, adding that those diseases include "cancer, heart disease, and respiratory diseases."


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